The city should use its power of eminent domain to seize the Shore Theater from its disgraceful owner — who has sat on the property for nearly two decades without doing anything to it — and turn it into the palace it once was, the unofficial mayor of Coney Island decreed on Thursday.
Coney Island USA founder Dick Zigun said Horace Bullard has allowed the building where Jerry Lewis once performed to crumble, and doesn’t deserve the choice property at Surf and Stillwell avenues.
“Whether it’s through the Landmarks Commission or eminent domain, this must be done by any means necessary,” Zigun said during annual State of Coney Island Address. “The Shore Theater must be occupied.”
The self-proclaimed leader of the People’s Playground says Bullard is letting his building crumble because he’s still angry over two spats he had with the city more than 15 years ago, when the Giuliani administration prevented the property holder from recreating Steeplechase Park on city land that’s now home to MCU Park and demolished Bullard’s Thunderbolt roller coaster — a move a federal court later declared illegal. Bullard also fought Zigun’s efforts to have the building landmarked in 2010.
“There are no more excuses for Horace Bullard,” Zigun said. “The Shore Theater is a disgrace of a landmark.”
Zigun said he would complain to the city Landmarks Commission about the theater’s poor condition. He’s also considering raising enough money to buy the Shore Theater from Bullard — a move the property owner welcomed.
“When Dick Zigun has enough money to buy the building, he can do what he wants with it,” said Bullard, denying Zigun’s claims that he’s purposefully letting his own building deteriorate.
Bullard said he plans to have the Shore Theater repaired and on the market inside of six months — though there are no plans in the works to restore it as a venue for live entertainment.
But that’s not enough for Zigun, who likens his plan to last year’s Occupy Wall Street movement in Manhattan — with a bit more muscle.
“But this won’t be an occupation by the 99 percent, but by the city,” he said. “They should cut the chains, break the locks, and occupy the building with inspectors, tax assessors, and social workers for the homeless.”
The theater was once named Loew’s Coney Island Theater, and ran movies and stage shows until the mid-1960s. It was taken over by the Brandt Theater group and renamed the Shore Theater, but its heyday was clearly over.
The theater began showing X-rated movies in 1972 after failing to lure audiences.